Ever since the first screenshots of Motorstorm provided an early glimpse of the power of the PS3, the franchise has become linked with the PlayStation brand. With later installments taking us from the American West through a Pacific paradise and winter wonderland before winding up at the end of the world, gamers were eager to find out what came next. And now we have the answer: remote-controlled cars.
What might at first seem an odd design choice makes more sense when you consider the game is primarily designed around the Vita, where the slightly retro gameplay works better. It also made it possible to include pint-sized approximations of the classic tracks and areas throughout the entire franchise history. And so it is that the game shows off a sandpit area that is made up to look like the original game, and a beach complete with sandcastles that brings to mind Pacific Rift. It all looks lovely and crisp in kind of a late 90’s way. Nothing here will blow you away visually, but the presentation as a whole including graphics and sound will still impress on a level unknown to many digital titles.
Motorstorm: RC plays very much like a throwback to racers like RC: Pro Am on the NES, Micro Machines on the Megadrive/Genesis and SNES classic Super Off-Road. Control options are infinitely customizable, however the default option uses both analog sticks to control your vehicle, and after 15 minutes or so of getting used to it, is well recommended. The left stick controls steering as you might expect, but you can use the right analog stick to accelerate and brake, which in a brilliant move replicates the controls of actual remote-controlled vehicles.
The festival campaign mode should now be well-known by series veterans. You gain medals through races, completing challenges and hot laps on tracks separated into four areas based around the previous Motorstorm games. Completing challenges opens up more areas and on and on you go until sunlight peeks out from a weary sky several hours later. The most addicting element of the game has got to be the constant text updates you receive as you play (when connected to PSN of course) which tell you when other players have beaten your times. It is nigh on impossible to ignore these challenges to your racing skills, particularly when said player is on your friends list. How DARE they beat you on Mixing Bowl, that’s your specialty!
That element of competition is important as Motorstorm: RC lacks a fully fledged online mode. This is a shame as it could have turned a very good game into an amazing one and is more or less the only negative aspect of the game as a whole. The PS3 version does however include split screen play which I’m sure would be an absolute riot, regrettably one I wasn’t able to test.
There is one element of Motorstorm: RC I haven’t talked much about, the cross play between Vita and PS3. Much hyped previously, this really and honestly does feel like the future. Playing the game for 30 minutes or so on the train, getting home and starting off from exactly the same place on your console without having to manually transfer game saves or anything really is impressive. That both versions of the game are identical speaks volumes for the Vita and that more titles that can take advantage of this cross play element the better in my opinion.
Motorstorm: RC is priced remarkably well, considering the ‘two for one’ nature of the digital purchase. At £4.79/$5.99 it remains the biggest bargain on PSN to date in my opinion. There are DLC options available which are also reasonably priced, ranging from packs giving access to new tracks and races through the purchase of individual vehicles. Whether anyone but the serious fan would be tempted to splash out on the latter however is open to question.
This price point positions Motorstorm: RC in a very attractive place, particularly for Vita owners. Offering content somewhere between an iPhone/Android game and a full retail title (although leaning much closer to the latter in terms of experience) and at a cost so low really opens the door for similar handheld offerings in the future. Whilst there will always be room for fully fledged handheld games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout: 2048 at full price, Sony needs to acknowledge that the portable market is a different place than it was when the PSP launched, and mid-priced digital games like this one, Escape Plan and Super Stardust Delta go a long way towards achieving that.
In this review I have mainly discussed the Vita version of the game, and although they are identical in content I admit to having had more fun playing Motorstorm: RC in relatively short bursts on the gorgeous OLED screen. Even if you don’t own a Vita I would still recommend the game as it is a lot of fun, particularly if you like your retro racers. If you do own both consoles however there really is no decision to be made. It feels wonderful to play particularly on Vita and really shows a leap forward with its cross-play element. The lack of true online is a shame, and perhaps a trick mode or something would have fleshed out the game a little, but regardless this is a true 9/10, a racer worthy of the Motorstorm name.